Mar 5, 2024 - News

The state of Indiana craft beer

Animated illustration of four different kinds of beers.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Despite changing consumer attitudes and a tough few years, experts say Hoosier-based brewers still have plenty of reasons to see their glasses as half full.

Why it matters: Indiana is home to 197 craft breweries that employ 10,000 people and have an economic impact of nearly $1.5 billion, per the Brewers Association, an industry trade group.

  • As a generation of craft beer drinkers ages and throttles back on their drinking, the businesses that cater to those consumers are being forced to adapt.

Driving the news: Brewers Association says craft beer sales dropped 2% nationwide in the first half of 2023 — a first for the craft market, excluding 2020.

By the numbers: Until 2022, the number of Indiana craft breweries tracked by the association increased each year since 2011, when there were just 46.

  • Year-end data for 2023 has not yet been released.

The latest: Brewers of Indiana Guild executive director Julia Whitson said as of Monday, the number of active brewer permits is 221. But that includes permit holders who may have closed within the last few months.

  • Data shared with Axios from a private Facebook group that tracks the local beverage scene said 2023 had 14 openings and 13 closures.
  • Nationally, the Brewers Association tracked more than 420 openings and 385 closures.

Zoom in: In 2023, local breweries like Indiana City Brewing Co. and Black Acre Brewing Co. closed for good.

What they're saying: "People, just in general, are drinking a little less across the board. And I think the younger generation coming up is definitely drinking less, if at all," Whitson told Axios.

Reality check: Gen Z isn't drinking alcohol as much as millennials did in their 20s, but they're more likely to use cannabis.

What's next: Whitson says this generational shift presents a great opportunity for Indiana breweries who are able to switch things up and meet the needs of their new regulars.

  • "They're kind of figuring out what else they can add into their offerings. So we are seeing some of our members starting to dabble into the nonalcoholic beer options. And we've got a couple who are toying with nonalcoholic CBD-focused drinks, just to add to their portfolio of offerings," Whitson said.

What we're watching: She added that brewers may also get into distilling.

  • "I think you'll start to see breweries who have the capability and the insight jump on canned cocktails if they have the distilling side to do that," Whitson said.

The bottom line: Craft beer isn't dead, but the boom of the mid-2010s probably isn't coming back anytime soon.

Go deeper: Nonalcoholic beer sales surge in Indianapolis

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